in February 2017, Republicans in the Iowa legislature rammed through legislation to gut public employees' union rights. Despite this draconian anti-union legislation, UE Locals in Iowa continue to fight for the rights of public-sector workers.
UE Wins Six Recertification Elections
The new legislation requires public-sector unions to be regularly “recertified” by holding elections at the union’s expense to prove their majorities. These elections are held under conditions that no politician could possibly survive under: in order to remain certified, the union has to win a majority of all workers, not just of those who vote — so not voting has the same effect as a “NO” vote. By comparison, President Trump won just 27 percent of eligible voters in the 2016 elections.
UE prevailed in six recertification elections in October: Local 893-30 at the Boone Community School District, Local 821 at the Spencer Community School District, Local 893-845 at Western Iowa Tech Community College, Local 893-97 at the Storm Lake Community School District, Local 893-98 at the Keokuk School District, and Local 893-15 at the Cedar County Road Department all prevailed, by wide margins. 87% of eligible workers voted YES for UE, a resounding rebuke to the Republican majority in the state legislature, who had hoped the new legislation would kill off Iowa’s public-sector unions.
UE Local 896/COGS, which represents graduate employees at the University of Iowa, has found ways to continue to represent its members even without dues deduction and collective bargaining. They set up an alternative method for dues payment and have been aggressively signing up members.
Although they were unable to bargain a real contract with the State Board of Regents (which runs all three of Iowa’s state universities), they convinced the UI administration to preserve their benefits for the 2017-18 academic year. The Graduate College adopted a “graduate assistant employment policy” which is a word-for-word copy of Local 896’s previous contract provisions governing every employment benefit that Local 896 members have won over the past twenty years.
Local 896 was also active in opposing a provision in the federal Republican tax overhaul bill that would have taxed their long-fought-for tuition waivers as income. The local held a rally on campus that got lots of press coverage, and even drew support from University President Bruce Harreld. The tuition-waiver tax, opposed by graduate employees and universities across the country, was eventually removed from the final tax bill. Local 896 is currently mobilizing its members to oppose cuts to education spending at the Iowa statehouse.